The Separation of Church and State

By Darien A. McWhirter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER three
Government Support for Religious Schools

DISCUSSION

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states that Congress cannot "establish" a religion. For the first century and a half of the United States' existence, Congress did very little that could be considered "establishing" religion; the issue simply did not come up much. By the end of the 1930s, however, the U.S. Supreme Court had determined that the Fourteenth Amendment made the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applicable to state and local governments as well as the federal government. The issue of "establishing" religion was raised more frequently with regard to the actions of state and local governments. How would the New Deal Court deal with this issue? In 1947 the Court began to provide an answer to that question.


GOVERNMENT REIMBURSEMENT OF BUS FARE

The case, Everson v. Board of Education (see p. 44), involved a New Jersey law that stated that parents who sent their children to public or Catholic school could receive a reimbursement from the state for any money spent on bus fare. While many of the Catholic schools had scholarships to help poor children attend, some parents lived far from the nearest Catholic school and could not afford to pay the bus fare. The state reasoned that every child that attended Catholic school was one less child the state had to pay to educate, and it would be less expensive for the state to pay the bus fare than to build the dozens of new public schools that would be needed if those children could not attend Catholic school. Some New Jersey taxpayers objected that this practice, at

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